By Sheila M. Dabu
AMMAN — Fawzieh Hassanat, the manager of the Noor Al Hussein Foundation′s Wadi Musa jewellery project attended to customers admiring the handcrafted silver jewellery during the “Festival of Jordan” on Friday and Saturday at the Wild Jordan Centre.
Hassanat, along with about 80 local producers from throughout the Kingdom and roughly 1,500 customers gathered at the first Fair Trade Jordan (FTJ) event in 2006, during which producers showcased organic fruits and vegetables, ceramics, recycled paper and handicrafts.
According to its advocates, fair trade as an alternative market not only has the goal of protecting nature but also carries with it the socio-economic objectives of combating poverty and unemployment and empowering women.
“Our project helps women because it gives them independence and also assists women to help their families,” Hassanat told The Jordan Times.
Aside from raising awareness about fair trade and environmental conservation, the event also sought to raise the profile of local producers and enhance capacity building.
“Fair trade will help artisans and producers to market their goods,” Omar Tahat, told The Jordan Times. Tahat owns a small shop in Amman and his niece, Nisreen Zawhrah, designs and produces the ceramic art.
“Most of the fair trade products are supposed to be environment-friendly or organic and fair trade teaches capacity building for individual communities to learn how to manage businesses and market their products,” Canadian Ambassador to Jordan John Holmes told The Jordan Times.
The Canadian International Development Agency and OXFAM Quebec, through their project with the Small Business Development Centre at JOHUD, supported the event.
As for the feasibility of fair trade in Jordan, Chris Johnson, Development Manager of the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN), said during a presentation that effective marketing is key to eco-tourism and ecofriendly businesses.
For instance, RSCN′s projects in protected areas have generated income for the local community through environmentfriendly activities, Johnson added.
“Our approach is business-like. We need protected areas to stand on their own feet economically and ecologically,” he said.
Furthermore, Johnson said that if the local community sees environmental conservation as a viable source of income, then it would have an interest in protecting nature.
Meanwhile, Zaid Hamzeh, manager of the Ammarin bedouin camp near Petra, said their camp faces an environmental problem.
“People go and picnic in our area then dump their garbage. Some cut trees,” Hamzeh told The Jordan Times.
“This environmental damage affects our community,” he added.
Even with this difficulty, the camp adopted fair-trade like practices such as eco-tourism, offering camel rides, in addition to marketing handmade, eco-friendly goods such as rugs made of goat hair and wool.
FTJ is in the process of identifying fair trade products for certification, which should take about one year, JOHUD Deputy Executive Director Eman Nimri told The Jordan Times.
Although FTJ has not yet established a certification process for fair trade goods, criteria would include environment-friendly goods by local producers and fair wages, according to Lianne Romahi, coordinator of Fair Trade Jordan.
Regarding the options for small producers in Jordan to start fair trade businesses, some advocate micro-credit programmes.
Mohammad Hmoud, marketing and product development manager of the National Microfinance Bank, said the Bank is specifically geared to provide micro-credit loans from JD200 to JD5,000 to women for existing small and microbusinesses.
But according to Reem Fariz, acting secretary general of the Jordanian National Commission for Women, microcredit in its present form is not the best way to assist women in fair trade enterprises.
She added that grassroots associations such as rotating credit and savings associations are more beneficial for women because they are low-cost and are run by women.
“From my 10 years of experience in the field, the way it is practised now, microfinance is good only for existing profitable businesses but not small producers,” she added.
Fariz added that women sometimes borrow loans for their husbands and then are left to pay off the loan and interest.
FTJ is a consortium of NGOs including the Jordan Hashemite Fund for Human Development (JOHUD), the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) and the World Conservation Union.
The next FTJ event will be held in May, according to event officials.